A/N: Because I let one of my Claymore-liking friends read STHH, and she demanded, "But Ryoushi was right there! Why didn't he stop Priscilla from killing Teresa?"
And then my brain went BOOM with ideas.
I really, really hate you, Lauren. Seriously.
Ryoushi was not conscious of the fact that he had moved; all he was aware of was that one second he was in town, "watching" Teresa's fight with Priscilla, and then he was there, catching the youngest Claymore's sword and tearing it out of her hands as it sang its terrible way toward his student. He had simply reacted and exposed himself, not even bothering to put on a cloak to hide his appearance, and he stared at the blade in his hands as if it was going to come to life and bite him.
He now recognized the instinct that had made him rush to Teresa's side, though; somehow, sometime during their little training soiree, his inner beast had sulkily categorized her as a "youngling," effectively as his little sister, and it was this powerful :defense-of-kin: instinct that drove him to protect her when she could not protect herself.
His student's cry brought him back to himself, and again, his body moved without his conscious command, dodging Priscilla's final strike before she Awakened completely, her incredibly powerful aura shattering the earth both around and beneath her. The other Awakened One shifted his grip to the handle of the blade and assumed a fighting position, Teresa doing the same; Priscilla was vulnerable and would only remain so for a few precious moments before her guard came back up, so it was absolutely critical that they struck at the same time.
Their eyes met for just the briefest of instants before they lunged, each moving independently of and yet never interfering with the other; Ryoushi took one of her arms, and Teresa cut her in half at the waist, but it wasn't enough. She was still in the process of Awakening, her youki surging wildly, and it healed her almost immediately. Priscilla seemed to not have noticed Ryoushi at all; instead, she only struck back at Teresa with one arm, only to have it shatter before it reached the hanyoma.
"What's this?" she asked, her Awakening settling as it finished, her arm already regenerating at an incredibly high speed.
Both Teresa and Ryoushi looked away from the monster for just an instant, just long enough to meet Irene's eyes. Her message was clear; 'We're not done with you, but for the moment, she is the bigger threat.' The former Number One nodded, accepting their help against Priscilla-bakemono, and turned back to face the Awakened Number Two. For a long moment, Irene and Ryoushi eyed one another; so far as she could feel, he had no youki, was just an ordinary human, but the fact that he had moved so fast and was carrying Priscilla's claymore like it was a feather betrayed him. He had come to Teresa's aid, but was he truly a threat?
'Questions for another time,' she thought, tensing her body in preparation for the Quicksword, Noel and Sophia preparing for battle behind her.
"Ryoushi," Teresa said quietly, "get Clare out of here." He looked at her. "Get her someplace safe so we can fight without Priscilla trying to kill her." The Awakened One hesitated for just a moment, then nodded and vanished, reappearing next to Clare and picking her up before disappearing again. He blurred silently over the rooftops, the girl under his arm, and tried so hard not to think about how appetizing her scent made her; he dropped down in front of his home and burst through the door, making for the storage closet that he used for human food. The claymore-turned-yoma unceremoniously dumped her on the floor, told her to stay there and that Teresa would come for her when the fight was over, and sealed her inside, barricading the door with a heavy metal gate that he was in the midst of forging.
He reappeared on the battle field just in time to see Sophia collapse; she wasn't dead, but she was seriously injured, and he moved her to a safe distance before leaping into the fight. He ducked a slash from the other Awakened One that would have opened his body from shoulder to hip and chopped off the arm as it passed, dodging out of the way when she regenerated, her arm unraveling into tear him in two.
Teresa, Irene, and Noel were clearly struggling against the Awakened Priscilla, the former because there was too much youki for her to read the flow and the latter two because they were so out of their league. Though the former Number One was much better off than the latter two because of her monstrous strength, she was still having trouble, only just dodging strikes and retaliating when she could. Irene was exhausting her Quicksword, the muscles beginning to tear with all the strain she was putting on them, and Noel was using her incredible agility to its fullest, twisting and jumping and flipping out of the way of Priscilla's attacks.
They weren't going to be enough, Ryoushi realized; they might eventually need to cut their losses and escape. He kicked the Awakened One full on in the chest, splintering her ribs and rupturing her lungs, and immediately Priscilla began gasping for breath, her body already healing, but it was much harder to heal a crushed area than it was to reattach a lost limb. He dodged out of the way as she unraveled her wings and tried to shred him to bits, only to have Noel get caught in the attack.
"Teresa! We need to cut our losses and get out of here, or kill her now!"
"I know that!" the hanyoma shouted back at him, and their eyes met again before they both ducked another strike from Priscilla, spun as one, and pumped all of the youki they could into one of their legs before kicking the Awakened One solidly in the chest a second time, sending her flying back and slamming heavily into a rock formation. Her ribcage collapsed completely this time, perforating her lungs and liquefying many of her internal organs, including her stomach, letting the hydrochloric acid free into her chest cavity. The force of their kick also fractured her spinal cord and knocked her out, much to the relief of the three still fit for battle.
"We need to get out of here," Teresa said firmly, "We're giving her all we've got, and it isn't enough."
"But we could kill her now!" Irene shouted, holding her severed left arm with her right as she began to reattach it.
"She's regaining consciousness; I say we get the hell out of here before we all lose our lives," Ryoushi growled, eyes on the other Awakened One.
"And I'm inclined to agree." Teresa nodded slightly. "We'll help you get Noel and Sophia away, but if you choose to come after us again immediately after, you have to give us a two-day head start."
"What's this 'we,' kemosabe?"
"You exposed yourself, Ryoushi; you aren't safe here anymore." Teresa snatched up Noel as she ran past, the Awakened One obliging her and picking up Sophia but struggling to maneuver the dead weight into a position that made her easier to carry, Irene running along behind them as they made their way up into the mountains to hide the injured hanyoma while they recovered. The moment everyone was settled in, the hanyoma and her Awakened-sensei immediately returned to Intore to retrieve Clare, but along the way...
"She'll slow us down, you know."
Teresa paused for just the briefest of instants before continuing, unnoticeable to normal humans, but Ryoushi picked up on it with ease. "I know, but I can protect her."
"I know that, but even if we carry her, it's more of a burden on the both of us."
"And what are you suggesting? That I let you eat her or something?" Even though she was forcibly controlling her emotions, her voice went taut with rage at the simple suggestion of such a thing.
"I was thinking more along the lines of catching the yoma in the next town and..."
"I don't want that kind of life for her," the hanyoma said as they reached the city and began leaping along atop the roofs, heading for Ryoushi's home.
"Short of leaving her somewhere, I don't see much of a choice." The Awakened One was not bothering to beat around the bush; both of them hated it when people did that. "If you want to escape the organization, you have to be light on your feet."
"But you were never caught."
"That's because I was the best sensor of my generation; no one else could catch me if I could sense their approach. In addition to that, I kept my youki suppressed long enough to where virtually no one noticed me until you came along." He left the 'And I didn't have a human child tailing me around' remain unspoken as they entered the house, and Ryoushi pointed Teresa in the direction of the closet where he'd stuffed Clare, gathering up all of the essentials for living on the run, namely water, clothes, and weapons with which to hunt. A lot of the food in his house was perishable, forcing him to abandon it, and he blurred around the kitchen, snatching up spices and salt and herbs and other forms of flavoring to bundle up and put in his pack, heaving it up onto his shoulder and heading for his bedroom.
There, on the wall over his bed, was his original claymore sword, the one that he'd traveled all the way to the far north to retrieve two years after his Awakening; he grasped the handle and lifted it off of the brackets holding it up, the blade as light as it ever felt in his hand. He silently laid it out on the bed with his pack and moved to the closet, quickly changing into a set of armor similar to the one he had worn as a claymore; the only difference was that it was much looser and colored jet black. He tightened all of the necessary straps and picked up his travelling cloak, tugging it on over top of his armor and pack.
He emerged from his room to find Clare munching on some bread and butter, Teresa looking over his weapons, now wearing a cloak to conceal her rather distinctive armor. "Impressive work," the hanyoma said, testing the balance of one of the blades; it was perfect, and there were no impurities in the metal.
"Take it, if you want. I can't take it with me." Ryoushi was already moving everything valuable away from the windows, boarding them up, and dousing his forge. The Awakened One tossed all of the food they couldn't eat away where the poor kids of the town would find it and sealed up his home before they departed, heading for the town across the river. He physically body-slammed the yoma in the other town and hauled it away, snapping its neck and dropping it at Teresa's feet.
Clare drew back slightly in fear, but Teresa sighed and put a steadying hand on the girl's shoulder. "Clare." She looked up at Teresa in askance. "If... if we're going to keep surviving, you have to become a hanyoma like me. It'll enable us to travel faster and longer and with less food than normal."
The human's eyes widened slightly in understanding. "How?"
"You have to eat the yoma flesh. That's the only safe way we have of doing it right now." Teresa looked up at Ryoushi. "Let's get away from this town."
The Awakened One nodded and picked up the yoma's corpse, turning and tearing off towards the west, much to Teresa's surprise. She gave Clare a piggy-back ride and sprinted to catch up with Ryoushi, asking, "Why head west?"
"Did you never sense the transformation taking place? For a period of about three days, Clare will have youki but can't control it; it's best if we're somewhere that isn't heavily populated by yoma and hanyoma: the west, furthest away from the place where hanyoma are made. So long as we avoid Riful of the West, we'll be fine."
"Riful of the West?" Clare asked from where she was peering over Teresa's shoulder, watching their surroundings flash by at an incredible pace.
"She... was a half-yoma warrior like Teresa, but then she became a yoma like me." Ryoushi heard Clare's quiet gasp of fear, and left Teresa to explain about Awakened Ones, leaping along ahead to scout out the territory and search for a suitable temporary home for them while Clare was turned into a hanyoma. The mountain range they were entering was the one opposite the plain that Irene, Noel, and Sophia had been left in, making it suitably far away for their purposes, and He eventually found an ancient cave in the mountainside and began clearing out all of the dead leaves and plants; Teresa and Clare caught up with him as he was cutting reeds for the padding over the floor. If they left it the way it was, Clare would freeze before she made the transformation.
The hanyoma helped him carry a substantial amount of the bedding back to the cave and spread it around, while the young human picked up sticks and broken logs for the fire pit in the center. "You're certainly keeping busy," Teresa noted when he successfully pinned a simply enormous rat to the ground with one of his daggers, having been watching it move about for the better part of ten minutes.
"It keeps my mind off of..."
"Ah." Teresa glanced at Clare as she brought more firewood into the cave, and the Awakened One moved to start the fire, carefully laying a circle of stones around it to keep anything from rolling in on accident. While the fire was getting up to temperature, he hauled the yoma corpse outside and began butchering it in the snow that was beginning to fall from the dark clouds overhead. The stench of the yoma corpse made everyone curl their noses, but it was necessary for their survival.
Ryoushi skillfully stripped the majority of the meat from the bones, collected the bloody snow, and began digging a hole in the ground, lining it with the yoma's stomach after he wiped it clear of the acid with some snow. Both Teresa and Clare watched with curious eyes as he heated some stones in the fire and packed the stomach with the bloody snow, then used the stones to melt the snow and heat the water, adding a few herbs and spices to the brew before he cut the yoma meat down to bite-size chunks and tossed it in. After a few minutes, the aroma of the stew permeated the air, Ryoushi digging in his pack and pulling out a carrot, a potato, and a knife, and he used the latter to cut up the former two and add them to the stew.
"I didn't know you could cook," Teresa said quietly.
"It helps to know how to cook when you're on your own, and when you have guests over and don't want them to know what you're eating." He checked the stew occasionally before ladling out a bowl for Clare. The young girl visibly scrunched up her nose but took it from the Awakened One anyway; now that it was right under her nose, she could smell the yoma flesh. The young human ate it just the same and forced down the entire stew before she lost consciousness, the transformation beginning.
Both hanyoma and Awakened One stood guard that night, watching the snow fall outside their brightly lit cave. Winter would soon be upon the land, making it even more necessary that Clare complete the transformation; she would not survive the intense cold without the ability to regulate her body temperature. As it was, both of the yoma-like entities had wrapped her up in their cloaks close enough to the fire to where she could remain warm but not so much that she'd set herself on fire.
About nine that night, Ryoushi perked up and turned his head towards the valley below. Priscilla was finally fully healed and on the move. He had already begun suppressing his youki the moment the fight was over, and now he gestured for Teresa to do the same so the other Awakened One wouldn't notice them. Ryoushi "watched" the distant source of incredible power as she slaughtered an entire village to slake her hunger before heading north, towards Isley's territory.
Clare's scent began to change that night, though she did not yet have a youki signature, and Teresa carried her when they went further west the next day, sprinting through the mountain range and down to the plain on the other side. The transforming human lay limp against Teresa's back as she and her Awakened teacher padded silently through the great forest on the plain, the trees too big and too close together for them to safely run though it at top speed, and occasionally the hanyoma would look back at the human, watching her progress.
"We'll need to get both of you new gear."
Silver eyes locked on Ryoushi's back, and not for the first time, Teresa was reminded of the incredible trust this Awakened One placed in her. She had decided long ago that if Ryoushi could train her, despite the fact that she was his mortal enemy, then she could ignore his food source in favor of their sorta-kinda friendship. "Where?" she asked.
"There's a town at a crossroads beyond this forest. I have some money. If you give me your measurements, I'll go in and get something for you and something basic for Clare until she stops growing." Both of them looked at the human. She had already grown at least an inch and had lost a lot of her baby fat, her hair lengthening slightly.
The Awakened One headed into town in the afternoon and was looking through one of the more popular clothing shops when he sensed an incredible Awakened aura appear at the edge of the city. Immediately, he clamped down on any and all youki escaping from him and tried to act normal, thinking, 'Damn. Of all the times to run into Riful of the West.'
He was able to ascertain after a few seconds that she was headed in his direction, and there was no way in hell he would be able to escape the Mistress of Blades without leveling the city, and Teresa would kill him for that. The one time that he had met her while she was still a hanyoma, he had felt the sheer power that she radiated, and while no where near Priscilla's level, she still was incredibly strong in her own right.
Ryoushi blinked down at the Awakened One, who was barely half his height. "Um, hello, Riful of the West."
It is her turn to blink. "Who are you?" she asked, lowering her voice so that only her could hear her.
"Ryoushi, 45th male generation, warrior 133." He knew that the longer he kept her distracted, the longer the townspeople might get to live.
Her eyes lit with recognition. "The First Escapee. What brings you to my neck of the woods?"
"What else but the organization?" He shook his head. "I had been living in the town of Intore, in Tolouse, when one of the organzation's warriors - the Number One, Teresa of the Faint Smile - came into town. I didn't want to get killed, so I moved to a safe distance. She was being chased by other warriors, a death squad sent to kill her, and on the outskirts of town, the Number Two Awakened."
Riful cocked her head, clearly interested.
"This Number Two - she was new, just barely certified, and she hadn't yet discovered her limits before she went over them. I high-tailed it out of there as soon as possible after that."
"Which way did she go?"
"North, toward Isley. I was tempted to go to watch the fight, but thought better of it."
"Hmm," Riful said, "Well, in any case, you are welcome in my lands for as long as you care to stay."
"Thank you," he said, bowing at the waist, "You are very kind."
She beamed at him and bounded out of the store, clearly contemplating the news that he had brought her, and he waited until she was out of his sensing range before letting out an exhaustive sigh of relief. Thankfully, her mate, Dauf, was nowhere within range, either, so he continued his perusal of the shops in the town, stocking up as much as he dared before returning to Teresa.
He had gotten her an outfit similar to her uniform, a two-piece full-body suit, leather boots, armguards, and shoulder guards, but instead of a waist/thigh guard, he got her a belt with pouches on it so she could carry small- to medium-sized objects without tying up her hands. Clare had received a similar outfit, about the same size, but there were buckles all along it so that its size could be changed as she grew.
"I sensed Riful," Teresa said without preamble as she changed, "What happened?"
"Nothing. She was just curious. I told her about Priscilla so that she'd be ready if she ever came this way."
"Was that wise?"
"It got her to leave and gave me a reason for being here." Ryoushi sat back against a tree, crossing his arms and closing his eyes. "All the same, we should stay out of cities as long as possible."
"Agreed. Clare and I would be able to pass as human, but only as long as no one saw our eyes." She stepped out from behind the tree and struck a sarcastic pose, modeling her outfit for the Awakened One. He quirked an eyebrow at her, but she could see a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. She flopped down next to him and assumed a similar position, watching Clare sleep. "How long will it take?"
"At the rate she's progressing, a week, maybe a little more. After that, two, three, maybe even four weeks to get her acclimated and train her in whatever skill she's got."
Night began to fall, and Ryoushi moved to build a fire, more for Clare's sake than their own.
"C'mon, Clare, put a little power behind it!" Teresa commanded, dodging the young claymore's strike and returning with one of her own, which was blocked but with less force than necessary to prevent her from skidding backwards. Clare managed to find traction on the wet sand and leapt again, bringing Ryoushi's blade up for another attack.
The Awakened One watched the sparring with impassive eyes, sensing the flow of youki through Clare's body. It had become immediately apparent upon the completion of the transformation that she was neither as sensitive nor as strong as Teresa or Ryoushi, but untrained as she was, she could rival them in speed. Teresa was working with her to build up her endurance in hopes that Irene was still alive and hiding somewhere so that she could train Clare; they knew she wasn't with the organization anymore because Ryoushi had "conveniently" overhead a conversation between a small group of hanyoma about the defection of the Number Two and that Numbers Three and Four had been killed on a mission (translation: Noel and Sophia were out and about, looking for Irene).
Unfortunately, now it was a matter of getting Clare up to snuff - that is, capable of defending herself against older, stronger hanyoma - before they began searching for Irene. The Awakened One sighed heavily. They had been living at an old cabin that he had built in in a forest by the sea for about three months now, and at the rate Clare was progressing, they would be ready to go within a few weeks. He turned his head to look out over the ocean, watching the waves roll into the shore. The soothing sound of the water drumming against the shore kept his inner beast quiet, which is why he preferred living by water whenever possible, be it the ocean, a river, a waterfall, even a tiny stream.
He turned his gaze back to the sparring hanyoma. 'Three, two, one...'
Clare's legs gave out from under her, and she collapsed to the sand, panting; Teresa said, "Let's take a break."
"I'm all right, I can-" Clare winced when her legs refused to hold her up again, sending her sprawling back onto the sand.
Teresa sighed in exasperation. "Clare, if you don't rest, your body won't get stronger because you'll be dead from exhaustion. It was the same for me under Ryoushi's training." She gestured to the Awakened One, who nodded to Clare when he sensed her gaze on him.
"I just... I feel like I'm disappointing you by not being a sensor-class hanyoma." Clare dropped her silver gaze.
Teresa was about to say something, but Ryoushi beat her to it. "Don't be," he grunted, "because sensor-class hanyoma are... not exactly rare, but they aren't common, either. All hanyoma are fast, but the 'acceleration-class' hanyoma are one of the rarest of the bunch." He looked her over, and Clare instinctively knew that he was not just looking at her physically, but he was also examining her youki. "I'd say that you might be able to use both Irene's Quicksword and a technique that I picked up from an old comrade of mine called 'Instantaneous Acceleration.'" He closed his eyes and remembered...
...That was what Number Four Vladimir was the best at: speed. He could outrun any and all of the warriors and trainees, covering long distances in fractions of the usual time. There was one time that Ryoushi saw him go full-tilt across a two-mile plain and cross it in under a minute, he was so fast. The best part was with Ryoushi's help - even when the sensor had still been a trainee - Vladimir was able to eliminate wasted movements and energy, so his speed and stride were as effortless and efficient as they could possibly be...
The Awakened One opened his eyes and threw off the weight of memory, sensing Clare's confusion.
"'Instantaneous Acceleration?'" she asked, accepting the water bottle that Teresa passed to her.
"Instantaneous, meaning like that." He snapped his fingers to show a very short amount of time. "Acceleration, meaning an increase in speed, regardless of what direction. It's like... if you were walking down this beach, and then you began to jog, then run, then flat-out sprint. That change in speed from walking to sprinting is called acceleration."
"Cool. When will I be learning this?"
"After Irene's training. It helps to know the basic principles of what you're doing before you actually do it."
"Teresa? What are you doing here?"
"Well, you see, Clare here..."
"You made her a hanyoma."
"We didn't exactly have a choice," Teresa interjected before the Quicksword user could argue, "It wasn't safe for any of us - especially her - if she remained human." She hesitated for just a second, then said, "I also have someone that I'd like to formally introduce to you."
"Yes. This," she said, gesturing to the dark-haired Awakened One hanging back a far distance, "is the former Number Two, Ryoushi. He's the one who taught me how to use my sensing ability effectively."
After an almost full-hour of explanations, questions, and answers, the former Number Two sighed and relented against Clare and Teresa's stance that he wasn't harmless but never ate the innocent. Ryoushi snorted at that. "I prefer to think of myself as some kind of subtle police force. You don't disobey the law, and I won't hunt you. Do, and I'll make your life a living hell." However, the Awakened One did accede to one of Irene's demands and agreed to stop hunting humans so long as he stayed with the hanyoma, instead moving to hunting the animals that lived in and around the valley where they hid from the organization.
Clare worked almost constantly on mastering the Quicksword and was practicing with Teresa when noel and Sophia finally made it. They came into the valley that same way that the trio had, through a system of caverns in the mountains, their youki suppressed down as far as it could go. and Ryoushi sensed them as soon ass they set foot into the mountains, the caves and tunnels acting as natural amplifiers for their youki.
He turned his head away from the sparring hanyoma to follow their progress, Irene watching him carefully once she noticed the change. Teresa paused when she became able to sense the approaching warriors, but then she continued on like it was nothing, blocking Clare's every strike until the newcomers arrive. It was then that Ryoushi decided to make himself scarce until everything was explained to the former Numbers Three and Four, heading to the river to bathe.
The yoma settled into the icy water with ease, eyes just above the surface and bubbles popping at the surface as he exhaled through his nose. It was nice to just get away every now and then, to leave everyone behind and just disappear into nature, to relish the relative silence. He sat in the cold, cold tributary for almost an hour before he rubbed himself down with a rag and got out, drying himself of with his cloak and putting his clothes back on. He caught a deer on the way back to the cabin and carefully ate its internal organs before carrying the meat back to the claymores; he knew they were running low.
Noel and Sophia made no secret of their distrust as they eyes him up and down, but he ignored them, instead calling Clare over to give her some practice at controlling the Quicksword. He used a dagger to draw the cuts he wanted her to make, and she unleashed her high-speed attack, making perfectly smooth slices through the meat before helping him heave it over to their smoker, where it was cooked and dried.
In the meantime, Ryoushi joined the hanyoma in a circle around the fire that had been lit outside and stared around at all of them before voicing the question that was on everyone's minds: "So what now?"
They all looked at him like he'd grown a second head.
"Well, we can't all stay here forever. Even at the rate we go through food as compared to ordinary humans, we would still deplete the food supply around here pretty fast. Not to mention, a group of yoma energy sources is a lot easier to detect that just one. Even though Clare is working on learning the Quicksword and Instantaneous Acceleration without youki, there's bound to be a few slips simply because she's new at this."
"True," Teresa murmured, "and it goes against the grain to just stay here and let people die because of yoma."
There were quiet murmurs of assent amongst the others.
"Clare and Irene will need to stay here so that she can learn the Quicksword. Noel and Sophia, you two need some more time to get your youki suppressed completely."
"And that leaves only you and I, right, Teresa?" A slightly bitter smile twitched the Awakened One's lips.
"I will go."
"Eventually, you will be teaching Clare Instantaneous Acceleration, and we run too much of a risk of exposing ourselves if we send a messenger to retrieve you when the time is right, and too much time would be wasted if we simply waited for you too come back."
"You're a better sensor than I could ever hope to be, Ryoushi, even if I Awakened. You'll be able to keep everyone safe."
The Awakened One sat back on his log and sighed heavily but did not protest.
"If you're sure, Teresa," Sophia said, placing a hand on Noel's arm to prevent her from protesting.
"I am. I'll be alright."
Ryoushi watched her for several long moments before saying, "You be careful, you hear? If word reaches my rather sensitive ears that you've been taking unnecessary risks, I will hunt you down, chop off your arms, and beat you with them." All of it was said in an utterly deadpan tone, indicating that he was very serious.
Teresa just laughed and explained to the others, "That's his way of showing concern for people," bringing a few quiet chuckles from the group.
The former Number One left the very next day, agreeing that she would return in six months to check up on everyone, leaving Ryoushi alone with three sort-off hostile hanyoma and one ambivalent one. They came to a sort-of agreement that they would leave him alone if he left them alone, and their community settled into a kind of peace while Teresa was away.
When Irene finally declared that Clare had mastered the Quicksword, Ryoushi had her start on Instantaneous Acceleration by running around in the stream that flowed by the cabin to build up the strength in her legs, steadily moving into deeper water as time passed. Teresa returned with supplies and other assorted articles for them, including different clothes for Noel and Sophia, and this time, both she and Irene headed out to hunt yoma, the former Numbers Three and Four actually learning how to fight without youki from Ryoushi. The Awakened One was quite willing to teach them and Clare at the same time, and after another year and a half of training, the youngest hanyoma was fast enough to do Instantaneous Acceleration without youki, a level that he had been at for almost twenty years.
Clare went off on her own the next go around and arrived at a fateful town...
"This is the sixth one."
Clare, hooded and cloaked, stood silently in the crowd around the body, gazing at it. She already knew who the yoma was; that was why she'd come here. She waited until the others moved away before she left, too, sliding up next to the building where the yoma was.
A human boy was already there, and though he carried the scent of the yoma, he was just an ordinary person. However, as he looked up at her, he clearly saw her silver eyes, and she lifted a finger to her lips before turning to listen to the talk of the elders.
"...round up suspicious-looking characters?"
"Calm down, Zaki. At this point in time, we can't afford a claymore, but in another few days..."
The yoma called Zaki sighed. "You're right, chief. That's why you're our leader."
Clare vanished in what appeared to be a blur of motion to the human next to her and reappeared on top of a building a block away, thinking, 'I can take it out; it's not that strong of a yoma, and I don't have to reveal myself any more than I already have.'
The yoma was talking to the boy who must have been his brother, and she followed silently from a distance, dropping back down to street level. After a moment, the beast left the boy, who turned the corner and found her. He appeared to be surprised to see her standing there, having not been able to sense her presence, but then he smiled at her and said, "Hi!"
"Hello," she replied calmly.
"You're... you're a claymore, aren't you? I thought the village didn't send out a request."
"They didn't, and I'm not. The organization has no name, neither am I a part of it."
The boy chuckled slightly. "Still, I can't believe it. You look like an ordinary girl. I guess I thought that you'd be big and scary."
Clare raised an eyebrow. "You're not scared of me?"
"No, not at all. You're just like an ordinary girl. Actually," he said, blushing slightly, "not so ordinary. You're a lot prettier than the girls around here. Um.." He looked up at her, appearing to remember something. "If you don't mind me asking... why are you here?"
"I was passing through the area when I sensed a yoma in this village. This place wasn't too far out of my way, so I decided to stop and help."
"So you came here to kill the yoma? That means you'll grant my wish. The first people to be killed by the monsters in the village were my parents. I was there, but I couldn't do anything. Before I knew it, only my brother and I were left alive. We were covered in blood. If I was strong enough, I could avenge my parents. Now you're the one who's going to kill it for me."
Just then, a bell sounded in one of the towers, making the boy panic. "Oh, no! Sorry, I've got to go. I have to fix dinner for everyone. We're staying at my uncle's house now, so we have to help out." Just before he turned to go, he said, "Oh, my name's Raki! What's yours?"
"You don't need to know my name," Clare said quietly, "You'll forget it soon enough."
Raki furrowed his brows in confusion but had no time to continue to question her, instead racing away to his uncle's home. "Sorry I'm late, uncle! I'll start making dinner right away! I'll be done in just a - huh?" His uncle was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood, unmoving and clearly dead."U-uncle?"
"Zaki! It's Uncle! He's-"
"Yes," his brother - no, not his brother, the yoma hissed, "He's delicious! His guts were superb!" Raki took a step back as the boy who had once been his brother began to transform. "It was tough, pretending to be human, with you around looking so tasty, but you never noticed, did you? Your own brother... when I ate your parents, I also took over your brother's body and mind. Because of that, I was able to use his memories and behavior patterns; that's why you stupid humans couldn't find me. I was planning to stay in this village a little longer, but seeing as how you're planning on summoning one of those witches... I guess I'll just devour you before you move on. Huh?" The yoma abruptly took notice of the water falling from his eyes. "Tears... It seems what is left of your brother is shedding tears. Heh, sweet, isn't it?"
The human gritted his teeth in fury and snapped his fist forward to punch the yoma, but with a single swipe, he was batted away with ease. "Fool!" the predator shouted, "Did you think a mere human could stand against a yoma? We have lived among you since ancient times! You exist only as our food." The yoma advanced on him. "We're the foremost predators alive, and you are our prey. Prey is in no position to fight back against predator."
Just then, Clare dropped through the wooden ceiling, hand moving invisibly up to the handle of the claymore over her back and using the null-youki Quicksword to shatter one of the yoma's arms as it lunged back away from her.
"What? A witch?" The yoma looked shocked for a moment before snarling and lunging forward bringing its other arm up to attack, but Clare cut up that one, too, and slipped around behind it at a speed that could not be tracked, cutting off its head in a single slice.
Raki had pressed himself against the wall on the opposite side of the room and was shaking in fear at the inhuman skills of the hanyoma, and she glanced at him as she cleaned off Ryoushi's black-handled claymore before she left just as silently as she'd come.
"Hey, did you here?"
"Yeah, I did. Zaki was the yoma."
"They say he was already one when his parents died."
"That silver-eyed witch - she appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast."
"She was staying at Galvin's inn."
"Yeah. Anyone heard about Raki?"
"He's with the village chief. I heard he can't speak from the shock."
The young teen was indeed curled up on a bench in one corner of the room, legs clasped to his chest, shivering; the fear he felt that night refused to leave his body. It wasn't until the chief laid a hand on his shoulder and told him to forget what happened that night that he remembered... "You don't need to know my name. You'll forget it soon enough."
"What happened to the girl?"
"She left this morning but paid in full for her room and the damage to Raki's uncle's house. Actually, I'm kind of glad she's gone. Those half-yoma are to similar to the monsters themselves."
Raki didn't even have to think about it; he was up and out of the chief's house before he even realized that he had moved, running for the edge of town and ignoring the cries of his name.
"You're not afraid of me?"
"You don't need to know my name. You'll forget it soon enough."
Clare stopped and looked back at the boy now standing at the edge of the village. Her silence was response enough for him.
"I'm sorry! You were right; I was afraid. Just like when my parents were killed. I've been afraid for so long, but I pretend I'm not. And I've beenashamed for so long, but I pretend I'm not. So that's why I'll never forget. You killed the monster that killed my family. I'll never ever forget you. Thank you! I'm truly grateful. I mean it. Really!" For the briefest instant, he could have sworn that he saw a slight smile appear on her face before she turned back and continued walking away from the village. "My name's Raki. Please, tell me your name!"
There was a beat of silence. Then,
"My name's Clare."